Wrestling coach hits 500-win landmark

Brianne Fleming, Staff Writer

“A great coach” and “inspiration” are just a couple words used to describe renowned Pitt-Johnstown wrestling coach Pat Pecora.

Pecora scored his 500th win last Tuesday at Shippensburg University, making him the first coach in NCAA Division II to reach the 500-win plateau.

But despite reaching this milestone, Pecora and the wrestlers dealt with an unpleasant mishap on the ride home – a bus breakdown.

According to senior Zach Lundgren, the team was stuck just outside Windber on Route 56.

“We were about 20 minutes away (from campus), near Babcock Ridge,” he said.

Lundgren attributed the breakdown to a broken turbo hose clamp.

This would have caused a disruption in the buildup of air pressure being distributed to the engine’s cylinders, which in turn affects the bus’s power.

But instead of letting the delay dampen his mood, Pecora said he and his team still managed to have fun and wait out the repairs in high spirits.

The delay stranded the team for nearly two hours, which junior Ryan Link said the wrestlers used to their advantage for some unexpected team bonding.

“We watched our wrestling tapes and made fun of each other,” he said.

Even with the delay, word about the big win spread quickly and congratulations were in order for the hardworking coach and his team.

“It feels great, of course,” said Pecora. “I don’t think so much of the numbers, though, as much as much as the young men in the program that have won and the relationships I’ve had with them. They got me here.”

And 500 wins isn’t the only accomplishment Pecora has secured since taking over as head wrestling coach in 1976.

He has won 14 NCAA Coach of the Year awards, as well as inductions into both the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coach’s Hall of Fame.

He doesn’t plan on stopping – instead, he will continue to do what he’s always done to remain a successful coach.

“I’m here to serve the university, as well as all the wrestlers and the other athletes,” said Pecora.

“It is an honor and a privilege to work here.”

But personal successes are not what Pecora said matter most.

“Obviously the two team National titles, two All-American, and the three national champion wrestlers,” he said.

“But mostly (it’s) the relationships I’ve formed with the young men in the program.”

Senior wrestler Nathan Link said he is proud of his coach and happy for him.

“He deserves it,” he said. “He’s a great coach with a positive attitude.

“He’s always been an inspiration throughout my career.”

Lundgren said Pecora’s commitment to his team and to the sport are a big part of what makes him a great coach.

“He treats all of us like we’re his sons and loves us that way, too,” said Lundgren.

“I’m going to miss his advice the most. He’s coached me through wrestling as well as life.”

“I know I can call or stop in anytime and he would die for me if it came down to it.”

Pecora said he thinks of his wrestlers as family members.

“We’re all a family. I coach wrestling like I coach my family.”

Incidents like the bus breakdown are perhaps the strongest reminders that it’s not the awards or accolades that matter, but the experiences a coach shares with his team.

“We just talked and laughed the whole time,” said Pecora.

“They are my boys.”